COVID vaccine: booster shots needed to fight omicrons, CDC studies show

NEW YORK – Three studies published Friday provide further evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine is consistent with the omicron variant, at least in people who have received a booster shot.

These are the first major US studies to look at the vaccine’s ability to protect against omicrons, health officials say.

The articles echo previous research – including studies in Germany, South Africa and the UK – indicating that existing vaccines are less effective against omicrons than earlier versions of the coronavirus, but also show that the booster dose increases the antibodies against the virus to increase the chance of avoiding symptoms of the infection.

The first study looked at hospitalizations, emergency rooms and urgent care center visits in 10 states, between August and this month.

THAN: Does having a high level of COVID-19 antibodies mean you don’t need a booster shot?

It showed that vaccine effectiveness was best after three doses of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in preventing COVID-19 related emergencies and emergency visits. Protection reduced from 94% in delta waves to 82% in omicron waves. The likelihood of protection from just two doses is lower, especially if six months have passed since the second dose.

Officials have stressed the goal is not only to prevent infection but also serious illness. The study also found some good news that the third dose was at least 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations from COVID-19, both in the delta and omicron stages.

The second study focused on COVID-19 cases and mortality in 25 states between early April and Christmas. Boosted ones have the highest protection against coronavirus infection, both during times when delta is dominant and also when omicrons are taking over.

Those two articles were published online by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published the third study, also led by CDC researchers. It looked at people who tested positive for COVID-19 between December 10 and January 1 at more than 4,600 testing sites across the US.
The three shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were about 67% more effective against symptomatic disease related to omicrons than those who were not vaccinated. The two doses, however, had no significant protective effect on omicrons when measured several months after completing the initial series, the researchers found.

“It really shows the importance of booster shots,” said Emma Accorsi of the CDC, one of the study’s authors.

Americans should buy boosters if at least five months have passed since they finished the Pfizer or Moderna series, but millions of eligible people still haven’t received them.

CDC Director, Dr Rochelle Walensky, said during a White House briefing on Friday: “If you’re eligible to get it, you’re not up to date and you need a booster shot.


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Dais Johnston

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